Texas Tech basketball: Red Raiders’ valiant effort not enough in Austin

Jan 14, 2023; Austin, Texas, USA; Texas Longhorns guard Tyrese Hunter (4) and guard Arterio Morris (2) guard Texas Tech Red Raiders forward Fardaws Aimaq (11) during the second half at Moody Center. Mandatory Credit: Dustin Safranek-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 14, 2023; Austin, Texas, USA; Texas Longhorns guard Tyrese Hunter (4) and guard Arterio Morris (2) guard Texas Tech Red Raiders forward Fardaws Aimaq (11) during the second half at Moody Center. Mandatory Credit: Dustin Safranek-USA TODAY Sports /

Welp…at least the Texas Tech basketball team put up a fight this time out.  That’s about all Red Raiders fans have to cling to as Mark Adams’ squad fell to 0-5 in Big 12 play with a 72-70 loss to Texas in Austin on Saturday night.

On the one hand, it was nice to see this team put forth a spirited effort after Tuesday’s no-show against Iowa State which resulted in an 84-50 humiliation.  But on the other hand, moral victories don’t get teams into the NCAA Tournament.  And after another opportunity for a resume-building win slipped through Tech’s hands as they squandered a 34-25 halftime edge, it is becoming painfully clear that it will take a miracle for this team to be dancing in March.  So here are a few takeaways from what transpired in the Red Raiders’ latest defeat.

Fardaws plays…a lot

Let’s start with a bit of a positive.  Prized offseason addition, Fardaws Aimaq, finally made his season debut after missing several months of action due to a broken foot and he was surprisingly effective.

Unfortunately for the Red Raiders, there was no opportunity to ease him back into the flow of real game action.  Instead, the Utah Valley transfer was asked to play 29 minutes as starting big man, Daniel Batcho was limited to just 19 minutes due to foul trouble.

To his credit, Aimaq made a difference.  Scoring 12 points and grabbing five boards in his debut, he was a nice asset for Adams to turn to off the bench and had he not been available, Tech would have been in huge trouble once again.

For long stretches, especially in the first half when Tech played its best basketball of the night, Aimaq and Batcho were on the floor together and that pair of near 7-footers actually seemed to compliment each other well.  Expect to see more and more of that tandem on the floor together as we move forward because that might be when this team is at its strongest.

As any logical observer might have expected, Aimaq was not Tech’s savior.  He didn’t take over the game and he looked to tire down the stretch, as one might expect.  Still, in his debut, after a lengthy layoff, he was the team’s third-leading scorer (tied with Jaylon Tyson) and he certainly showed that he can help this team for the remainder of the season.

Two starters struggle

Unfortunately, for this team to beat quality opponents, especially on the road, nearly every starter must be a net positive.  That is asking quite a bit but so is life when you have as little margin for error as this season’s Red Raiders do.

Saturday, the problem was that two of Tech’s starters, Batcho and Kevin Obanor, both gave the team very little.  As a result, Tech simply didn’t have enough firepower to keep up with UT once the Horns started to knock down shots in the second half.

Before fouling out for the first time all season, Batcho managed no points and only one rebound.  In four Big 12 games this year, the redshirt sophomore has yet to score in double digits after doing so seven times in non-conference action.

Meanwhile, Obanor was only slightly better.  Hitting just three of his eight shots (and no 3-pointers), Tech’s only super-senior was held to eight points.  Though he did grab ten boards, he simply has to be a more consistent offensive force for this team, which struggles to score even when Obanor is on his game.

So far, Obanor has had three poor showings and only two quality outings in conference play.  He and Batcho both must be consistent difference-makers for Tech if this team is going to have enough firepower to actually win these close league games.

Critical misses at the line

Perhaps the turning point of this game came deep in the second half when Obanor and Aimaq combined to go 1-4 at the line on consecutive possessions.  In a two-point loss, that would prove to be rather monumental.

At the time of the first trip to the line, Tech was down 58-55 with 3:33 remaining.  Obanor, Tech’s best free-throw shooter at 87% entering the game, would brick both of his attempts.

Then, after a defensive stop and a Tech possession that included an offensive rebound (one of 14 on the night for Tech, eight more than Texas managed) Aimaq would make just one of two shots at the stripe.

For the game, Tech was 14-20 (70%) and that would prove to be not good enough to upset the Horns.  What’s more, in this critical two-possession stretch, when Tech could have taken the lead by making its free throws, Obanor and Aimaq could not come through.  As it were, Tech would never lead after that moment as the Red Raiders ended up chasing these three missed points for the rest of the game.

Tyson gives Tech a boost

Though it came in a losing effort, we must acknowledge that nice game that Jaylon Tyson had in his first game against his former school.  After absolutely dreadful outings against Oklahoma and Iowa State, Tyson scored 12 points and collected a team-high 14 rebounds, his first career double-double.

That’s the type of effort the Red Raiders need from Tyson, who has been a starter all season long.  Playing all but three minutes of this game, the 6-foot-6 wing was 5-9 from the floor while displaying confidence and decisiveness with the ball in his hands.

Though he would have preferred this effort to come in a win, he had to be proud of how he played in front of the fans that used to cheer for him last season – fans that certainly were hoping to see him struggle in his return to Austin.  If Tech can get that type of effort from Tyson for the rest of the year, it will do wonders for his confidence and this team’s ability to compete.